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Academic Paper


Title: The development of a new pronoun: The linguistic and social embedding of a gente in Brazilian Portuguese
Author: Ana M.S. Zilles
Institution: Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul
Linguistic Field: Sociolinguistics; Morphology; Semantics
Subject Language: Portuguese
Abstract: The Portuguese NP a gente, meaning "the people," is undergoing grammaticalization and is acquiring characteristics of a personal pronoun, increasingly replacing first-person plural nós, meaning "we," in
speech. In Brazilian Portuguese, this process seems to be correlated
with a number of other ongoing morphosyntactic changes. In this study I
compare data from Southern Brazil on the use of a gente in the 1970s and the 1990s. Quantitative analyses are conducted in terms of two methodological approaches: apparent-time and real-time studies. In the real-time analysis, two kinds of studies are discussed: a trend study, with two comparable groups of speakers, and a panel study, with the same speakers compared longitudinally. The linguistic and social embedding of this process is discussed in terms of the Labovian classification of changes as being "from above" or "from below." I am very grateful to Gregory R. Guy for supervising this research project while
I was a visiting scholar at New York University (2001–2002) and for his kind and wise assistance in the preparation of the lecture (presented at NYU on September 20, 2002), on which this article is based. I also acknowledge the valuable work of my research assistants at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil: Kátia M. L. Aires, Greice L. de Souza, Karine Q. da Silva, Patrícia da R.
Mazzoca, Leonardo Z. Maya, and Melissa Schossler. This research was conducted with the support of Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq), an agency of the Brazilian government dedicated to scientific and technological development, grant 200740/01-6(NV); Fundação de
Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado do Rio Grande do Sul (FAPERGS), grant 00514482; and Pró-Reitoria de Pesquisa da Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul.

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This article appears IN Language Variation and Change Vol. 17, Issue 1, which you can READ on Cambridge's site or on LINGUIST .



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